Fiction · German · Translation

Apple Cake and Baklava

I’m currently working on what might be my dream book project, and it’s definitely one you’re going to hear me go on about a lot. Apple Cake and Baklava, by Kathrin Rohmann, is a novel for late primary kids and early secondary, dealing with asylum, how it feels to be a refugee, parallels between WWII and Syria, grandmas, recipes, a lost walnut that means the world and a budding friendship between Max and Leila. I love this book and can’t wait to see it in UK schools and libraries from summer 2018. I’m even already planning a German-Syrian-English baking class at a local cafe for a Gloucestershire launch event!

My translation will be published by Darf Publishers in 2018, with support for the translation costs from the Goethe Institut, UK. There are more details about the book here on the New Books in German website.

‘Apple Cake and Baklava is a story about otherness, openness and the willingness to come to know one another. Many children will be aware of the latest surge of refugees and their plight. Leila’s is a sadly universal and timeless story of leaving behind a home country forever. While set in rural Northern Germany, it could equally take place in most European countries.

This is an absorbing book for older primary and younger middle-school children, and Franziska Harvey’s lovely black-and-white illustrations – some small, some full page – enrich the story.’ (New Books in German)

German · non-fiction · Translation

Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

*** Farewell to the Horse was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week from 29 May! ***

Farewell to the Horse is an engaging, brilliantly written and moving discussion of what horses once meant to us. Cities, farmland, entire industries were once shaped  as much by the needs of horses as humans. The intervention of horses was fundamental in countless historical events. They were sculpted, painted, cherished, admired; they were thrashed, abused and exposed to terrible  danger. From the Roman Empire to the Napoleonic Empire,  every world conqueror needed to be shown on a horse. Tolstoy once reckoned he had cumulatively spent some nine years of his life on horseback.

“Ulrich Raulff ’s book, a bestseller in  Germany, brilliantly translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, is a superb monument to the endlessly various creature who has so often shared and shaped our fate.”

(from the inside cover)

Title: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Author: Ulrich Raulff

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Publisher: Allen Lane, published 25 May 2017 

Reviews

‘This unusual book is a series of airy, winging essays that alight briefly on world history, art, literary criticism and historiography before leaping on to make new, often surprising connections. […] This is not the Pony Club Manual or a trot through the more familiar sights of equestrian art history; it’s Kafka, Aby Warburg, Tolstoy, psychoanalytic theory, Nietzsche and bleak monochrome photos in the style of Sebald. This epic enterprise is relieved by Raulff’s spare, vivid style and deep learning. He is as comfortable analysing the etymology of Pferd and Ross as he is discussing the Chicago School, Clint Eastwood and the Amazons, and he rarely loses his audience.’

Susanna Forrest in The Literary Review

‘A beautiful and thoughtful exploration of the role of the horse in creating our world… Farewell to the Horse is a grown-up, but also lyrical and creative, history book, and I very much enjoyed it.’

James Rebanks

‘In his conclusion you feel the deep underlying affection that drives his historical mission. “Anthropologists see the man, historians see the farmer, technologists see the plough and perhaps someone will even be interested in the harness,” Raulff laments, “whereas nobody feels responsible for the horse.” This refined and ambitious book corrects that tragic neglect.’

James McConnachie in The Sunday Times, 14 May 2017

‘Sex, violence and 6,000 years of horse power: Melanie Reid enjoys an elegy to the way horses have galloped through our culture’

Melanie Reid in The Times, 20 May 2017

‘As you pick up the reins of this books – trying to get a sense of what sort of ride it is to be – it becomes evident within three paragraphs that you have never read a book like it. […] Raulff’s ability to corral scattered equestrians in art, letters and life makes scintillating reading and his writerly pace is exhilarating – especially when he takes flight from his own starting gates.’

Kate Kellaway in The Observer, 21 May 2017

‘Mr Raulff gallops through time and space, art criticism, philosophy and economics, plaiting in tales of Kafka, Tolstoy and Comanche, the hard-drinking stallion who was the only non-Indian survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn. His is a category-defying, often dizzying, piece of writing; both books are imbued with hippophilia.’
The Economist, 1 June 2017

Fiction · German

Sacrifice – a German crime thriller

I’m reading a lot of crime fiction but this book stands out among them all. The narration is so rich that even when the novel is at is most gruesome I did not dare put it down. I just learned Hanna Winter has 5 other novels published in German and can’t wait until they are all translated as well!” Amazon review

“It will be interesting to see where this series goes. Lena shows great deal of potential as a character and I love the setting of Berlin. I was drawn to her and her side kick. This is definitely worth a read, if you are in the mood for a serial killer thriller. Amazon review

Title: Sacrifice

Author: Hanna Winter

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Publisher: Manilla Books (Bonnier Zaffre)

Publication date: e-book 30 June 2016, paperback 17 November 2016

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Bottled up by Basma Abdel Aziz

‘I could wander aimlessly from one colleague’s office to another, stopping here and there for a chat, maybe a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. I’d sit back with a carefree yawn, my notebooks and files piled up in front fo me, gnawing on a pencil that splinters between my teeth. I wouldn’t bother with any correspondence or with responding to any queries, no matter how pressing. Instead I’d gaze on idly as the people wait, crushed by their exasperation. But why should I feel the need to do anything about it?’ Extract from Bottled Up, published in Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

‘In a new short story, published here in English for the first time, a woman trapped in a glass bottle is able to see, but unable to influence, the world around her. By failing to resist, she views the women, who are concerned only with the superficial details of life, as complict in the regime. Her inspiration was a pivotal moment of understanding that “we have given away our transient victory to such a totalitarian authority and that we keep turning int he same vicious closed circle, without an end.”‘ Interview with Basma Abdel Aziz by Charlotte Bailey, in the same edition of Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

Short story title: Bottled Up

Author: Basma Abdel Aziz

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published: The Unnamed: Does anonymity need to be defended? Index on Censorship, vol 45, issue 3, September 2016

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Stories in Translation

Long awaited, the Arabic short story special of The Common journal is now out!

‘The issue was co-edited by Jennifer Acker and Jordanian short-story writer Hisham Bustani, with an eye not just to bringing new Arabic literature into translation, but into joyous, sharp translation — with work by some of the best emerging Arabic-English translators. This collection is not for Arabists, but for English-language fictionophiles.’ (ArabLit blog)

The Common issue 11, entitled Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Fiction, features the work of 31 contributors from 15 Middle Eastern countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Translated for contemporary English-speaking audiences, the issue presents a diverse group of emerging and established literary stars.

The anthology is available to buy at www.thecommononline.org. You can also read several of the short stories online, including the one I translated – the surreal Minouche by Moroccan author Anis Arrafai – but I’d urge you to buy a copy of this stunning publication. One to treasure.

Arabic · Fiction · German · non-fiction · Russian · Translation

Shortlisted for an Arts Foundation fellowship 2016

My head is still reeling after attending one of the most exciting arts events I’ve ever been invited to. There were children’s theatre entrepreneurs, people who stage symphonies in unusual locations, innovative jewellery designers and the creator of the world’s first sustainable fabric made from pineapple leaves, Pinatex. A truly inspiring celebration of young people in the arts. And not only was I wined and fed with delicious canapés, I came home with a cheque for £1000, as a shortlisted candidate for the Arts Foundation 2016 fellowship in literary translation. I’m delighted that the fellowship was awarded to, IMHO, the most deserving of the 5 of us on the shortlist, the amazing Deborah Smith: scholar of Korean literature, award-winning translator and founder of the radical publishing house Tilted Axis Press. Thank you to the Arts Foundation and to Alexandra who nominated me.

Arabic · non-fiction

The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria

By: Samar Yazbek
Translated by: Nashwa Gowanlock and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Published: Rider Books 2015
Reviews
‘The Crossing is not simply reportage or political analysis. It bears comparison with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia as a work of literature. Yazbek is a superb narrator who knows how to pace her text, craft dialogue and convey a universal sense of grief; this is how she crosses the line from journalism to high literary art.
 
Although it is probably not be what she intended, it may be that Samar Yazbek has written one of the first political classics of the 21st century.’
Andrew Hussey, The Observer
‘EXTRAORDINARILY POWERFUL, POIGNANT AND AFFECTING. I WAS GREATLY MOVED’
Michael Palin
‘It was insanely dangerous: a friend told Yazbek she was “showing off”, but there is little bravado in The Crossing.’
Margarette Driscoll, The Sunday Times
More reviews in The EconomistThe Financial Times, The Irish TimesThe Daily Mail and The Sunday Times; interviews with Samar Yazbek about The Crossing in World Literature Today, Qantara and Middle East Monitor
Published extracts

‘The barbed wire mauled my back as I crawled between the two countries. Then I ran…’ The Observer, June 2015